- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

NORTH KOREA

U.S. warns against missile ‘provocation’

The United States yesterday warned North Korea against conducting a “provocative” intercontinental missile test after U.S. officials said there were signs a test could take place as early as this weekend.

A test would be Pyongyang’s first launch of a long-range missile since it stunned the world in August 1998 by firing a Taepo Dong 1 over Japan that landed in the Pacific Ocean.

“Such a launch would be a provocative act, and we would instead urge them to focus their energies and their activities on returning to the six-party talks,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. He was referring to talks on curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear program involving the United States, China, Russia, North and South Korea and Japan.

AFGHANISTAN

40 militants killed in U.S.-led raids

MUSA QALA — Air strikes and ground troops killed at least 40 militants during combat operations in support of a massive anti-Taliban campaign across southern Afghanistan, military officials said yesterday.

The insurgents were killed in a two-day operation that ended Thursday in a remote part of southeastern Paktika province, near the Pakistan border. One coalition member was wounded. A militant wounded during the battle was also captured.

The offensive was launched in support of Operation Mountain Thrust, the largest anti-Taliban military campaign undertaken since the former regime’s 2001 ouster in an American-led invasion.

SOMALIA

Protesters oppose foreign troops

MOGADISHU — Thousands of Somalis chanting anti-Western slogans protested in Mogadishu yesterday against parliament voting to allow foreign peacekeepers in the country, a move opposed by the newly powerful Islamist militias.

About 3,000 protesters marched through trash-lined streets in a protest organized by the Islamic courts, some shouting: “We don’t want foreign troops.” Others waved banners that read “America open your eyes” in response to Wednesday’s parliamentary vote.

SRI LANKA

Air force attacks rebels for second day

COLOMBO — Sri Lankan fighter jets and artillery bombarded rebel positions for a second day in the country’s north and east, peace monitors said yesterday, even as the president pledged to press on with peace efforts after a bus bombing killed 64 persons.

The government said Tamil Tiger rebels were behind Thursday’s bombing — the worst single act of violence since a 2002 cease-fire — while the rebels insisted the air and artillery strikes showed the military was on a war footing.

While the two sides traded accusations, some 10,000 mourners prayed at a funeral for 61 of the bombing victims, including 15 children. Buddhist monks and Roman Catholic priests led the funeral in the northeastern village of Kabithigollewa, with the dead women wrapped in white saris and the men in white sarongs.

CHINA

Researcher denies spying charge

BEIJING — A Chinese researcher for the New York Times pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of leaking state secrets in a case that rights activists say underscores Beijing’s continued rejection of press freedom.

The closed-door trial for Zhao Yan, 44, who has been detained for 22 months, ended yesterday after one day with no verdict, one of his lawyers said.

The lawyers sought to have Mr. Zhao released on bail, but the court rejected the application.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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